Sunday, April 18, 2010

Healthcare and the Party of Scrooge

Finally, the United States has taken a huge step to join the ranks of civilized nations in the area of health care. Before the vote, President Obama predicted the bill will pass. “The reason it will pass is because it’s the right thing to do.”

Unfortunately, in their reaction to the legislation and the historic passage of the bill, Senate Republicans, not one of whom voted for the bill, did not rejoice, but showed themselves to be a negative and niggardly party of nay-sayers, the party of Scrooge. Weeks after the passage of the bill, Senate Republicans, not one of whom was in the position of not having heathcare, are still smarting from their defeat.

It was obvious something needed to be done. The system was not working. Those who needed insurance couldn’t get it, and those who had it, were complacent. The inequities in this huge industry needed to be addressed. The most grievous abuses of the health care industry, a lucrative business, needed to be curbed:There was the pre-existing condition clause, that would not grant insurance to those already ill. There was a cap on benefits. Then there were those who got sick and saw their premiums skyrocket or were dropped by their plan. There are the prohibitive costs of a single payer plan. And the prohibitive costs of providing insurance for small business.

The insurance companies’ aim was to make huge profits, not to provide healthcare for those who need it: The lower the risk pool, the better for them. Unlike some Americans seem to think, the biggest reason for bankruptcy in this nation is not irresponsible credit card spending but out of control health care costs, for those who do not have coverage or have lost it.

Senate Republican responses uncannily echoed a return to the social injustices of Dickensian England.“Are there no (debtor’s) prisons? Are there no poorhouses?” was Scrooge’s miserly self-serving response when asked about the less fortunate. “Aren’t there emergency rooms to serve those who do not have insurance? “ was the questionable logic of our Republican nay-sayers. (Don’t they realize how much emergency room care costs? As opposed to preventive treatment?) Prominent also was the selfish argument of the Far Right, “I have health insurance. Why should I be responsible for the health of another?

”This modest bill aimed to help the most vulnerable populations: the sick, the young, the poor, the Tiny Tims. Nonetheless, the Republicans’ reaction to the bill was, “Bah Humbug,” as Scrooge would say. All along, the passage of the bill was marked by obstructionism, and stonewalling, and even derision. They proved themselves a selfish lot, who care little about their neighbor, about their friend, about their fellow man. In their mean-spirited approach, they showed an appalling lack of concern for those fellow Americans who had been subject to the worst abuses of the insurance industry.

What was amazing about the debate surrounding the bill was the outrageous logic and false analogy that Republicans passed off as argument. What was even more amazing, was the incoherent nonsense of the Republican legislators who made fools of themselves. Their response was angry, petty and perverse: The right to health care is not granted in the Bill of Rights, they argued. (But what does health care have to do with a political statement regarding rights of people rebelling from an autocratic England? We did not rebel against England because of healthcare!) Neither is healthcare guaranteed in the Constitution, they incongruously argued. (But doesn’t this political document about the founding of a nation state that all men are created equal, giving more heft to the argument for the expansion of health care to all of America’s people?)

 As I was beginning to write this, I even got an urgent email, from a doctor, who stated in his self-serving arguments that no one has "a right” to health care. Has he forgotten his oath that by virtue of his training, he has an ethical obligation to serve his fellow human beings? No one has “a right” to his services, he argued, as though he were a mere entrepreneur.

Even more amazing, were the threats and violence that followed. “Don’t retreat, reload,” said Sarah Palin, who sounded more like a rabble rouser than a concerned citizen. What is that supposed to mean?Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, even received threatening phone calls.

Embarrassingly for our nation, Republicans showed themselves to be anything but civilized, but rather, the party of greed, subject to special interests, and lacking, to say the least, in generosity, good will and grace toward their fellow man.

After the passage of this bill, Obama echoed former Senator Kennedy’s pronouncement that healthcare is not only a right, but a moral imperative. Our society has an ethical responsibility to treat those who are ill. Everyone should share the risk.It is time for Republicans to drop their selfish garble. It is time to ask ourselves who we are as a people. It is time for all decent Americans to stand up to the tyranny of insurers and their profit driven industry.” It is also time for all Americans to pull together and say “We did it.”

One can only hope that our nay-sayers get a visit from the ghost of Marley, and like Scrooge, be forced to come to their senses.

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